Fr. D gave a very moving homily this morning on the Gospel from John 11. He reflected on how moved and upset Jesus was at hearing of Lazarus' death and how, when Mary saw Him she ran to Him, falling at his feet and saying , "Lord, If you had been here, my brother would not have died...." Father described what many of us have probably experienced with a loved ones serious illness or passing and the barrage of questions that tend to follow, of "what happened?" and "if only" 's.... He told of the passing of his own father's passing just last June. Father was here in America and his father was in his native land of Uganda. After a very quick illness (only 3 days), he was gone. Father did not go to Uganda right away. For one thing, he was taking classes here that he could not miss. For another, if he had decided to go, it would have taken some to make arrangements and get there and it would have already been to late to be there for any kind of funeral or burial.
When he did finally make it home in August, many friends, family and neighbors said, "If only you had been here, you could have anointed your father..." as it was, his father was not able to be anointed before he passed. He shared that it is a guilt that he still struggles with, even though he knows, realistically, there was nothing he could have really done about it. Here in America he was anointing other people's fathers and mothers, children, etc... but he was not able to be there to anoint his own father...
My mind flashed back to the passing of my own dad. Dad had collapsed in his kitchen across town. It was after 10pm and my sister called me after she got a call from mom and I met them at the hospital. I CLEARLY remember, even though I had just started to fall asleep when I got the call, that I immediately woke up, dressed and jumped in my car, almost robotically, and drove to the hospital. Instinctively I prayed the Hail Mary over and over and over again, not really knowing why. My dad had never gone to the hospital a day in his 79 years of life... But I continued repeating Hail Mary full of grace..., over and over... Shortly after I had been admitted in to the emergency room waiting area and met my mom and sister, maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, the Doctor came in to tell us that there was nothing they could do... In the midst of trying to console my mom I thought, "we need to call a priest..." a couple of phone calls later and I was able to reach Fr. R, who came down in a matter of minutes. With us in the room, Father proceeded to bless Dad's now lifeless body... My mind began racing, thinking, "if only I had called before I left home..." even though I had no way of really knowing... This was Dad. He would pull through, like he always did! He was still young! His mother lived until she was 104! He had siblings older than him still alive!
But as I think Fr. D was trying to help us understand this morning, God knows what is best and will bring life from even Death. There is NOTHING that WE can DO to change anything. Not even him, a priest, could do anything to stop the will of God and how things followed through with his dad... It is all in God's hands. He is in complete control, and we need to learn to hand things over to Him in complete trust.